Thomas Jefferson University

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A Long Tradition of Excellence
Achievements of Thomas Jefferson University in Health Care, Medical Education & Biomedical Research

Meeting the Changing Needs of Society for 175 Years

In 1824, when London and Paris each had only one medical school, Dr. George McClellan founded Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia, the city's second medical college. McClellan's approach to medical education was founded on supervised student participation in the care of patients, at that time a revolutionary approach. Students, however, were quick to appreciate the merits of such instruction: 109 students matriculated in Jefferson's first class, and the school grew quickly in the following years.

During the mid-nineteenth century, Jefferson students had the benefit of a strong college faculty as well as a variety of clinical settings, including the General Dispensary attached to the College, the Blockley Almshouse (Philadelphia Hospital), Pennsylvania Hospital, and Wills Hospital for diseases of the eye. Around 1843, Jefferson began to rent rooms for some of those patients who underwent surgery in the school amphitheater, providing another setting for patient care.

In 1856, a renowned graduate, Samuel D. Gross, M.D. (class of 1828), returned to bestow upon his alma mater a reputation that has lasted to this day. Thomas Eakins's masterpiece portrait, 'The Gross Clinic,' depicts Dr. Gross as a commanding figure in the college's surgical amphitheater. Dr. Gross was pre-eminent in the medical profession. The finest surgeon of his time, an educator of the highest distinction, and author of 14 books, Gross considered himself to be first and foremost a physician who devoted much time to family practice.

Contributing to Medical Leadership

From its modest beginnings in George McClellan's office across from Philadelphia's Independence Hall, Thomas Jefferson University is today the largest free-standing academic health center in Philadelphia, and Jefferson Medical College is the largest private medical school in the United States. National recognition of the top quality of medical education at Thomas Jefferson University was accorded by Deans and residency directors in 1992 and again in 1993, when Jefferson was ranked the best comprehensive medical school in the United States in surveys conducted by U.S. News & World Report.

Among the most illustrious of Jefferson's more recent faculty and alumni are: John H. Gibbon, Jr., M.D., (Class of 1927), who opened a new era in cardiac surgery with the development of the heart-lung machine; James M. Hunter, M.D., (Class of 1953), who developed the first artificial tendon for use in reconstructing hands; Allan J. Erslev, M.D., who was the first to demonstrate the existence of a renal hormone that stimulated red blood cell production, later known as erythropoietin; Benjamin Kendall, M.D., who made it possible to obtain a prenatal electrocardiogram; Laird Jackson, M.D., who developed a method for first-trimester diagnosis of severe congenital disease; Robert C. Gallo, M.D. (Class of 1963), who isolated interleuken-2 and associated the HIV virus with the disease AIDS. Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and member of the National Academy of Sciences, discovered the defective gene responsible for producing aortic aneurysms and a gene that causes an unusual form of familial arthritis. Carlo M. Croce, M.D. an internationally renowned geneticist who founded the Jefferson Cancer Institute and the Jefferson Cancer Center, discovered the involvement of immunoglobulin loci and the C-myc oncogene in Burkitt's lymphoma; and identified the gene, bcl-2, that is involved in follicular lymphoma. Drs. Hunter, Erslev, Kendall, Jackson, Prockop, and Croce are current faculty members.

Building State-of-the-art Medical Facilities

During the twentieth century, Jefferson's clinical facilities expanded continuously. Thomas Jefferson University now occupies a 13-acre urban campus near the Historical Area of central Philadelphia. In 1924, the Thompson Annex was opened, then the tallest hospital building in the world, and in 1954 the new Foerderer Pavilion provided state of the art medical facilities. Opened in June 1978, the Gibbon Building was an innovation in hospital design. Within its nine stories are four 100 bed mini-hospitals, each with its own diagnostic and therapeutic facilities, teaching rooms, and physicians offices.

Renovations completed in 1990, resulted in a state of the art emergency and trauma center with its own operating room. Encompassing three trauma bays, two x-ray rooms, a patient-testing lab and a resuscitation room, Jefferson's emergency and trauma center is one of the few facilities in the United States to be both the topmost level regional resource trauma center and a federally designated spinal cord injury center. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is one of the area's largest medical centers, with 717 beds. With new operating rooms opened in 1992, a total of 28 operating rooms, as well as various modern surgical support facilities, now service the entire hospital.

Providing the Finest Healthcare Education

Although Jefferson's campus altered dramatically, its principal mission, to provide the finest healthcare education, never changed. The goal of excellence is still being pursued with the prime objective of producing competent practitioners by:

  • Selecting academically qualified students from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who display caring attitudes and the potential to mature into skilled and compassionate professionals.
  • Caring attitudes and the potential to mature into skilled and compassionate professionals.
  • Developing intellectual curiosity in students and instilling in them scholarly habits which will insure continued professional growth and development.
  • Instilling in each student the highest standards of professional ethics and social responsibility.

In 1967, the board of trustees authorized the establishment of the school which subsequently became the College of Allied Health Sciences. The College of Graduate Studies was established in 1969, the year in which the three colleges and Jefferson Medical College Hospital became Thomas Jefferson University.

Maintaining the Tradition of Excellence in Clinical Training

The personal contact between students and faculty, an integral part of all teaching in the University, is especially important during clinical rotations where there is often a one-to-one relationship. A wide variety of clinical teaching settings is available to students. Rotations at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and at affiliated hospitals or medical centers allow students to observe patients over the whole range of illness severity. Clinical training of students is directed by Jefferson faculty at 15 affiliated hospitals located in suburban Philadelphia, central and western Pennsylvania, as well as in the states of Delaware and New Jersey. The Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, our most recent affiliate, is an excellent tertiary care facility where students can experience healthcare delivery and education in a more rural setting. Half of all clinical teaching takes place at affiliated hospitals.

Approximately 4,000 beds are available for clinical teaching with a student/bed ratio varying from 5 to 30 beds per student depending on the institution. Jefferson has over 650 full-time University and hospital-based faculty and almost 2000 non-salaried faculty who volunteer their services both on campus and at the affiliated hospitals. 650 young physicians occupy sought-after positions as residents/fellows at Jefferson.

Jefferson students and Jefferson residents perform well as judged by national licensure examinations, residency positions obtained, and subsequent academic appointments. Excellent opportunities are available for basic and clinical research at Jefferson Medical College and at both University and Affiliated Hospitals.

Jefferson graduates are well prepared for future careers having received a well-rounded education and clinical experience directed by an excellent faculty from diverse backgrounds including university and community medical centers. A significant percentage of Jefferson students continue their academic careers at Jefferson or at the affiliated hospitals. Both students' and residents' evaluations of clinical rotations are used to continually upgrade the medical curriculum.

Offering Exciting Opportunities for Research Training

The College of Graduate Studies offers Ph.D. programs in anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, pathology and cell biology, pharmacology and physiology. Two MD/PhD programs are offered jointly with Jefferson Medical College. In the fall of 1987, Thomas Jefferson University initiated an innovative and exciting MD/PhD program for students seeking a career in academic medicine and biomedical research. There is a strong emphasis on molecular genetics, recombinant DNA technologies, protein structure and function, nucleic acid structure and function, and molecular embryology. More than 375 students are enrolled in graduate level courses.

Advances in Diagnosis & Intervention

The University teaching hospital has a national reputation in several program areas, including breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, radiation oncology, cardiac angioplasty, high-risk childbirth, medical genetics, joint replacement, treatment of skin and colorectal cancers, liver transplants, trauma, and care of hand injury.

Understanding How Diseases Occur

The medical college initiated organized research in 1941 as a reflection of the importance of basic research to medical education. In the 1960s, as a reflection of the growth of the National Institutes of Health and government interest in the support of basic medical research, Jefferson made a significant commitment to research with the construction of Jefferson Alumni Hall which provided over 120,000 square feet of research space. In 1991, the commitment was reinforced with the opening of the Bluemle Life Sciences Building which provided another 150,000 square feet of research space. At the same time Jefferson established the Jefferson Cancer Institute, headed by Carlo Croce, M.D., with a staff of more than 200 scientists interested in a broad range of scientific disciplines related to the molecular biology of cell growth and function.

The emphasis on increasing research activity has had a significant impact on research revenue. Between 1984 and 1993 total research revenue has increased over 4 fold from $14 million to $60 million. Moreover, federal government support for research at Jefferson has increased nearly 5 fold from $9 million to over $42 million.

Jefferson's efforts to expand its research programs have been focused in key areas in which the University could exert a significant impact and where significant funding was present to justify faculty and research development:

  • Hematological, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Diseases
  • Neurosciences and Rehabilitative Medicine
  • Skin, Bone and Extracellular Matrix Biology
  • Alcohol, Liver and Metabolic Diseases
  • Cancer
  • Genetics, Developmental Biology, and Birth Defects
  • Immunology
  • Health Services Research

Educating the Health Team

Jefferson's College of Allied Health Sciences, established in 1969, prepares students in nursing and the allied health professions for increasingly responsible roles as members of the health care team. Roots of the College extend back to1891, when a hospital program in nursing began. Over the next seven decades, other hospital-based programs developed which, eventually, were integrated within a School of Allied Health Sciences, now called Jefferson College of Health Professions.

Approximately 1,300 students enroll annually, mostly in baccalaureate degree programs in nursing and occupational therapy plus the laboratory sciences of cytogenetic technology, cytotechnology, and medical technology. The College's multi-competency program in diagnostic imaging is one of two in the nation granting a Bachelor of Science degree. Graduates of the program are eligible to take examinations for certification by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. In addition, the College offers a three-year program in physical therapy, beginning with the junior year and leading directly to a master's degree, under the auspices of Jefferson's College of Graduate Studies.

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences also offers an M.S. program in biomedical chemistry and in microbiology. Students of the College of Allied Health Sciences may earn advanced degrees in nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.